Posts Tagged awards

14 Videos for Starting Dialogue on Rethinking Rewards, Awards

It is no secret that I have some strong opinions on using awards and rewards to “motivate” our students to be better behaved and achieve more in schools.  Instead of using carrots and sticks to bribe and punish students, we need to work to create the conditions for students to motivate themselves (adapted from Deci and Ryan) and move to a more intrinsic model of motivation in schools.

If you have further interest in reading my thoughts on rewards and awards, please read my post, “My Issue With Rewards” and check out my page “Rethinking Awards Ceremonies” that includes 50 posts from many different educators.

Here are some videos (in no particular order) that I have used to initiate dialogue around a conversation that questions the use of rewards and awards in schools (if you have any other videos to share, please link them in the comments below and I will add them to the post):

 

1.  Rick Lavoie on “Motivation and Competition in Schools” – here is a mashup I created of 3 videos of Rick Lavoie as he questions the use of competition as a motivational tool in schools.  He is not opposed to competition but he says that we need to reflect on HOW we use it and work to use competition when it is a choice.

 

2.  Daniel Pink on “The Surprising Truth ABout What Motivates Us” – Pink shares research on the issues with using carrots as a tool to motivate and states that we need to focus on creating the conditions through autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  Be sure to also read his book, “Drive”, in which he more closely links to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s research on “Self-Determination Theory“.

 

3.  Sheldon from Big Bang Theory on Motivation - a comical clip to show the silliness of using bribes and punishments to alter behaviour.

 

4.  Dwight Schrute vs Alfie Kohn - in this humorous video, we see how “business leader” Dwight Schrute (in TV’s “The Office”) attempts to motivate his staff using the legendary “Schrute Bucks”.  Inserted between the clips are references to thoughts from author Alfie Kohn.  If you can access any episodes of “The Office”, be sure to check out their version of business awards, “The Dundies”.

 

5. Dr. Ross Greene: Kids Do Well If They Can – in this clip, Dr. Ross Greene shares how, instead of looking how to motivate kids to be better behaved (“kids do well if they want to”), we need to look through the lens that kids WANT to do well and, therefore, we need to look for the skills they are lacking and teach them so they CAN do well.  Be sure to check out his books “The Explosive Child” and “Lost at School”.

 

6. Alfie Kohn on Rewards – a short clip by Kohn that includes “the more you reward students for doing something, the more they lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward”.

 

7.  Joey’s Soap Opera Awards Loss - although comical, it shows the idea that awards can move us toward a “succeed by defeating others” mentality.

 

8. Nobel Prize Winner Richard Feynman on How He Doesn’t Like Honours – a good clip from the late physicist, Feynman, that challenges the idea of traditional “honours”.

 

9. Edward Deci’s Keynote - Deci shares the research that tangible rewards can actually DECREASE intrinsic motivation.  Deci is one of the key researchers in which Kohn and Pink have based their work.

 

10.  Daniel Pink on TED:  The Puzzle of Motivation - Pink shares thoughts and research on how traditional rewards aren’t as effective and do not motivate as we would think they would.

 

11.  Barry Schwartz on Using Our Practical Wisdom - in this TED talk, Schwartz talks about rules, carrots, sticks and actually choosing to do the right thing.

 

12.  Bribe Mentality: Neglecting and Derailing Intrinsic Motivation – the first 8 minutes of this video are very good and include the words of Kohn, Pink, and Marshall Rosenberg… the last part focuses on a resource-based economy that would go beyond the scope of most conversations in schools.

 

13: Mr. Keefe’s Class Dojo - this video shows how a teacher uses the software Class Dojo to attempt to “motivate” his students.  I won’t get into this one much in this post, and although this video is designed to support Class Dojo, this is definitely a good conversation starter on the use of sticker charts and rewards-based programs in schools.

 

14.  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Christmas Bonus – Clark Griswold shows us what happens when a reward is expected… but not given/received.

@chriswejr

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Is a School Awards Ceremony the BEST We Can Do?

Questioning Awards

I was recently asked by educator Larry Ferlazzo to share my views on awards ceremonies as part of his article on Ideas for The Last Two Weeks of School. Here are my thoughts:

The final few weeks of school are often the time for meeting, choosing, and awarding the winners at our schools.  Three years ago, our school made the decision to move away from awards ceremonies and consider other ways to honour all of our students.

Although I believe we need to move away from awards I also know this is a difficult decision in most schools as there are often lengthy traditions of trophies and awards.  I am not advocating we lower expectations nor am I stating that every child should get some “top _____ award”; however, as we observe our formal year-end awards ceremonies, I strongly encourage you to reflect upon the following questions:

  1. How many students have strengths and have put forth great efforts but are not awarded?

  2. What impact does a child’s parents, culture, language, socioeconomics and current/previous teachers have on the winners/losers?

  3. Does choosing a select few students as winners align with our school mission and vision?

  4. Are there other ways we can honour and showcase excellence?

  5. Is there a specific criteria or standard that must be met to achieve the award?  If yes, then can more than one person be honoured or is it simply about awarding one person that is better than his/her peers in a specific area chosen by the school?

  6. How does a quest for an individual award align with a culture that encourages teamwork and collaboration?

  7. If we honoured and showcased student learning in a variety of ways throughout the year, would a year -end awards ceremony be necessary?

  8. Do students have a choice on whether or not they enter this competition?

  9. If awards are about student excellence and motivation in the “real world”, why do we not host awards ceremonies for our top children in our homes?

  10. If we are seeing success in encouraging inquiry-based learning, focusing on formative assessment and fostering a growth mindset, how can we defend a ceremony that fosters a fixed mindset and mainly showcases winners often based on grades and/or scores?

I believe we need to honour and highlight achievements and student learning but I wonder… is an awards ceremony that recognizes only a select few, and is often held a few days before our students leave, the BEST we can do?

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Host celebration of learning events throughout the year (or one at the end of the year) in which students highlight/share examples and demonstrations of a key part of their learning.

  • Host honouring assemblies in which each student is recognized at a point during the year not through an award but through stories and examples of his/her learning, strengths, and interests

  • Encourage class/department events in which each class showcases and shares areas they have been highlighting in their learning

  • Combine the above events with parent/family luncheons so more time can be spent sharing the stories.

  • Share online the wonderful work students and staff do in our schools. Provide digital windows that highlight various stories of learning.

Although there is no single best way to acknowledge the efforts and achievements of our students, we must be aware of our school traditions and cultures and also work together to reflect upon and challenge current practices to create positive change that seeks to honour ALL of our students.

For links to posts on awards ceremonies from a variety of parents and educators, please check out Rethinking Awards Ceremonies.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Changes to Awards System at Mt. Scopus College

CC Image From http://bit.ly/s9fS8Q

I am pleased to have a guest post by Greg Hannon, Head of the upper elementary school at Mount Scopus College in Melbourne Australia, write  a post describing how his school has decided to move away from the traditional awards ceremony structure.  One of my Twitter friends, Edna Sackson (@whatedsaid), introduced me to Greg as she is a teacher at the school.  Thank you to Greg and Edna!

This post is part of the series “Recognizing ALL Students: The Movement”.  If you know of other schools that have altered the way they honour their students, please contact me to join the movement.

CHANGES TO AWARDS SYSTEM AT MOUNT SCOPUS COLLEGE

This year I decided to tackle a protocol that has taken place over many, many years at our College, a protocol I never believed in but one in honesty, never had the courage to confront – the giving of awards at our Year 6 Graduation Evening.

Past families and students have left endowments to be awarded on an annual basis for high achieving students in Literacy, Numeracy, Hebrew and all the major sports. These awards grew over the years, now numbering 24 separate awards, that would be presented during the graduating ceremony.

So, after four years as Head of the Primary School, I now have the confidence and conviction to not only question, but make changes to programs that have operated within the College for many years that possibly didn’t get reflected upon as rigorously as perhaps they should have. My first target was the Year 6 Awards!

I knew to successfully end the tradition I had to firstly record the reasons as to why I didn’t believe in them.

  • Graduation is a celebration for every student associated with the cohort, not just the select few with specific abilities and talents.
  • Some families pressure their children and in fact teachers that their child is worthy of an award.
  • Some children have left the evening in the past feeling upset and in fact in tears at not receiving an award that they thought they deserved.
  • Some awards are very subjective.
  • The evening becomes more of an awards night instead of a celebration of learning and collective achievement.
  • I question whether or not our Year 6 children need to be subjected to potential disappointment in relation to not receiving awards. That will occur as they grow older.
  • What are we standing for as a College? A school that celebrates only the talented few or a school that recognises the achievements of all.

Once I had recorded my beliefs, I met my year 6 staff individually, to explain my aspirations. Pleasingly, most were very supportive of my intentions. I then canvassed senior staff and all agreed that the policy of awards was out dated and needed attention.

 Now, having the confidence to make the necessary changes I made a meeting with the College Principal and College President. This was a particularly pleasing meeting and once I had articulated my reasons for making the changes they were both overwhelmingly supportive of the change.

 It was decided at that meeting to convey the changes to the parents in a ‘drip feed’ manner. I met with all Year 6 students and explained to them the reasons as to why I was removing all awards from the primary school and making the Graduation Evening a celebration of every students achievements, not just the naturally talented or bright!  This information went home and to my surprise, not one complaint. Just the opposite actually with two parents commenting on how it was a positive step forward.

 As a College, we recognise special achievements at our weekly assembly. We don’t give out certificates or prizes, we just verbally acknowledge and celebrate the achievement.

 Moving forward, our Graduation Evenings will now be a positive experience for ALL students and hopefully the entire cohort leave the evening feeling recognised, special and happy.

Greg Hannon
Head  Mount Scopus College, Melbourne Australia

For more thoughts from other educators on awards, please go to “Rethinking Awards Ceremonies“.

Tags: , , ,

Questioning Honours

Image from http://bit.ly/naHH9V

A few years ago, our school ended our traditional awards ceremony, student of the month awards, and honour roll. Instead we try to honour EVERY child for the strength and passion while challenging and encouraging them to grow in their areas in which they struggle. We continue to honour our academic students; however, now ALL children are honoured for who they are.

My question is: how important is it to publicly honour people? If we praised and challenged their efforts each day (ie. Dweck’s ‘Growth Mindset’), would we need to host public events to celebrate students?

Next time you discuss the select few that are honoured at your school, please reflect on the images from the Sagan Series and the words of Richard Feynman in this short video below.

Note: although the video mentions a religious figure, this post is in no way written to initiate a discussion around this but merely to question how society honours particular people, skill sets, and positions.

Thank you to @sheilaspeaking, @hhg, and @nunavuttweeter for bringing this video to my attention.

Tags: , , , ,

It’s Easy…

Which road will you take?

Which road will you take? image - http://bit.ly/pASkSU

As educators, we are often faced with an opportunity to take the easy road or the hard road.  The easy road often works for us as parents, teachers, administrators but it rarely works for kids.  The difficult road may be an immediate challenge and take much more time and effort but this is most often the road that leads to real learning.

It’s easy… to suspend or send a child home for misbehaving.  It’s more difficult to spend time WITH the child, actually listen to him/her, model and teach him/her the social skills needed to be successful in life.

It’s easy… to give a number or letter (grade) to a child as a way to mark or judge the work.  It’s more difficult to provide ongoing coaching, descriptive feedback and formative assessment that will improve the child’s learning.

It’s easy… to give a zero.  It’s more difficult to tell a child “I will not let you get a zero, I will be continue to work with you to determine the reason you want to resort to taking a zero and then provide strategies to ensure you can demonstrate your learning”.

It’s easy… to teach to the test.  It’s more difficult to teach to each child.

It’s easy… to teach the curriculum.  It’s difficult to work to ensure that each child learns the curriculum.

It’s easy… to motivate student achievement with a prize/reward.  It’s more difficult to model being a learner, develop a safe, trusting environment and lessons that are truly engaging so the focus is on learning.

It’s easy… to give out tickets and bribes for good behaviour.  It’s more difficult to teach empathy, ethics, and care so that children are intrinsically motivated and will choose their actions because it is the good and right thing to do.

It’s easy… to kick a child out of class or place in a time out.  It’s more difficult to work with the child so that he/she feels cared for and actually learns the needed skills.

It’s easy… to lead from the top-down.  It’s more difficult to actually listen and make decisions based on the voices of others (although this often makes things easier).

It’s easy… to turn your head the other way or pretend you did not hear something that goes against what you stand for.  It’s more difficult to have those challenging, learning conversations with people regarding these statements and/or actions.

It’s easy… to not include the voice of parents in the school/classroom.  It’s more difficult to engage parents and build trust so that we develop a partnership to do what’s best for our children.

It’s easy… to make decisions based on white, middle class culture.  It’s more difficult to actually listen to the voices and build trust in those that have been disengaged and marginalized for many years.

It’s easy… to keep your thoughts and opinions in your head.  It’s more difficult to share these with others through presentations, Twitter, blogs, wikis, and other forms of social media.

It’s easy… to close our door and teach our kids.  It’s more difficult to open the door, allow others to observe our class/school, reflect and collaborate with others, and receive input on how to improve our practice.

It’s easy… do do things TO others by controlling.  It’s more difficult to do things WITH others by facilitating.

It’s easy… to give awards to top students.  It’s more difficult to seek out and recognize the gifts and passions of each student.

It’s easy… to place A and B students on an honour roll… it’s more difficult to honour each child for who they are.

It’s easy… to say NO.  It’s more difficult to say HOW CAN WE make this happen?

It’s easy… to standardize.  It’s more difficult to personalize.

It’s easy… to design an education system that teaches a child to ‘do school’.  It’s more difficult to build a system that encourages students to develop the skills, character, and mindset so that they can truly flourish in life in and beyond school.

With any decision- ask yourself: am I taking the easy road that works for me right now or am I taking the more difficult road that benefits others in the future?

I would love for you to add any other “It’s easy…” comments below.

Tags: , , , , ,

Recognizing ALL Students: Greystone Middle School

EVERY child has a strength inside them; it is our job, as educators, to bring this out.  “Recognizing ALL Students” is a page designed to showcase the success stories of schools that have moved away from the traditional awards ceremonies and monthly assemblies that only focus on a select few students to a place where ALL students are recognized for their unique talents and interests.

I am pleased to showcase Greystone Centennial Middle School from Spruce Grove, Alberta as a school that has moved away from the traditional awards ceremonies to a process that works to honour and recognize each student.  Thank you to principal Carolyn Cameron (@carolynjcameron) and teacher Jessie Krefting (@jessiekrefting) for their insights and efforts. Greystone is part of the Parkland Division – a division that continues to be an innovative leader along many avenues of education.

greystone

Why did you move away from the traditional format of awards ceremonies?

Carolyn: “We had the privilege of opening a brand new middle school in our community 6 years ago and we were very intentional NOT to set up traditions and structures that did not support what we fundamentally believed in for students – education is not about ranking and sorting students with special recognition and rewards for the few – our philosophy was based on abundance and growth.  Every learner has something special to offer and should be given the opportunity to shine.  We did not get there, however, in our first year – we have made adjustments every year to bring our parent community, students and staff along.”

Jessie: “When I was at another school in the far west of our school division (the same school division as Greystone, where I am teaching now) myself (grade 6) and the grade 1 teacher jumped on the opportunity to implement and pilot a new, innovative report card. This report card was a huge leap for parents, students and other staff members. Coupled with this report card in which we used phrases such as “can consistently do” “is working towards consistently doing” “needs support in” to describe student learning, we (the two of us) chose to not give our students the traditional academic awards for honours etc. This was a huge bone of contention with parents. I purposely chose at the academic awards to recognize each one of my students for something that they did that term that was special and an area where they showed growth. I know that this school is still doing academic awards in the 7-9 stream however, they have stopped the academic awards in K-6.”

How are you honouring and recognizing each student OR what is your current ceremony format?

We have monthly assemblies that celebrate special things going on in our school, we have a talent show, and we have a year end assembly (we call it a celebration) where we focus on the service/volunteerism of our students.  All other sharing and celebrating occurs within grade level “Learning Communities” throughout the year.  We have student led conferences where learning is shared and celebrated and our year end celebrations recognize each and every student for their accomplishments from the year.  Each grade level team organizes this year end event to include parents. Students receive recognition for Citizenship and Social Responsibility as well as academic achievement and growth.  Teachers ensure that all students are recognized for their accomplishments.

What impact has this had on your students?

Our assemblies are HIGHLY engaging as we focus on school spirit, community building and creating positive energy within the school.  One of my very favourite things we do at our beginning of the year assembly and end of the year assembly is the “gauntlet”.  Our new grade fives enter their first school assembly being welcomed through a double line of grade 9 students cheering and high-fiving for them – they are given messages/cards to welcome them.  At the year end assembly/celebration (that replaces the awards assembly), our grade nines go through the cheering “gauntlet” created by our grade 5’s as they leave the gym for the last time.  The grade fives present them with a photo cd and cards wishing them good luck in High School.  The nines always get teary and emotional during this.

Have there been any challenges to this change?

We developed a committee/focus group in the first year to discuss the reasons why we do awards ceremonies and who really benefits from this kind of tradition.  I think that helped set the groundwork.  The next step in our journey was the development of a reporting system that does not include marks – we assess students and report their performance based on meeting outcomes.  This aligned with our focus on individual growth and achievement – not competition.  The biggest challenges have come from parents of students who are high achievers – we have helped these folks understand, through many many conversations, that the reward is not what motivates their son/daughter to do well – they are driven by success and they feed off of doing the best they can do for themselves…they will continue to do well whether there is a prize at the end or not….in time, this has proven true so we are no longer being challenged on this anymore.  We have been working hard, through our assessment practices, to help students see for themselves, what they need to do to grow and learn (and it has nothing to do with a prize).

Anything else you would like to add?

We will be implementing an even more innovative report card next year that is process skills/competencies based (as opposed to information/content driven) which means our teachers will be pushed even further to develop assessments that measure performance/process as opposed to heavy focus on summative products.   Students will continue to become self-reflective, metacognitive learners who set goals for personal improvement and take ownership of their own learning.

Thank you to Carolyn, Jessie, and the staff and community of Greystone Middle for leading the way in assessment, student motivation and learning!

If you are aware of another school that is challenging the traditional method of honouring students, please contact me.

Tags: , , ,

Recognizing ALL Students: St. Gregory College Prep School

EVERY child has a strength inside them; it is our job, as educators, to bring this out.  “Recognizing ALL Students” is a page designed to showcase the success stories of schools that have moved away from the traditional awards ceremonies and monthly assemblies that only focus on a select few students to a place where ALL students are recognized for their unique talents and interests.

Through many conversations I have had over the past year, I have heard “That is great that your elementary school has ended the awards ceremony… but good luck doing that at the secondary/high school level!”.  I recently came across Jonathan Martin‘s post at his 21K12 site that describes in great detail the decision that his school, a high school in Tuscon, made to move away from the traditional awards ceremony.  I  thought their story would be a great addition to the conversation here so I asked if I could re-post his blog on the Wejr Board as part of the “Recognizing ALL Students: The Movement” series.

Jonathan is a colleague of mine from the Connected Principals site and a valued part of my PLN.  He continually challenges my thinking and is a great example of a progressive, informed educator who puts his learning into practice.  Thank you, Jonathan, for allowing me to post your words here:.  If you are interested in highlighting your school’s decision to recognize all students, please email me.

St. Gregory

Awards at St. Gregory: Changes We Are Making To Recognize All Students

Dear members of the St. Gregory community:

Recognizing our students for their unique talents as outstanding individuals, creative and compassionate community contributors, and extraordinary intellects is something important to us all.

Important also is that we make choices which strengthen and enhance the quality of our supportive and collaborative learning community.  We know that students thrive most and learn most when they believe that the growth and the contributions of each of them are valued deeply, greatly, and equitably by their teachers.

As each school year ends, it is especially important that we take strong strides to value every learner and enhance our learning community.   Traditionally, in the middle school, each and every 8th grade student is individually recognized, appreciated, and honored by a teacher at the lovely promotional ceremony.

In the past, our high school graduation ceremonies have only included the naming of each graduate as he or she is welcomed to the stage and awarded a diploma.   This year, for the first time, we will initiate a new tradition at graduation in which each and every graduate is personally introduced by a faculty member with thoughtful remarks valuing the graduate’s qualities and contributions. It is my expectation that this ceremony will be warmer, more personal, more affirming, and more uplifting as we put our attention on our fine students, celebrate their accomplishments, and honor their character, scholarship, leadership, and innovation.

Last spring was the first time in my 21 year career in which I had the opportunity to observe a school awards assembly or awards process.   Neither of the two previous schools at which I taught and served as Head had any awards tradition.   I thought our ceremonies, both middle school and upper school, were each lovely in the way our teachers spoke about students and their accomplishments.   But it was not evident to me that these ceremonies were affirming and uplifting to the learning of all our students.

In the days after the ceremonies, I felt a bit besieged by the disgruntlement the ceremonies created.   Parents called to say their children were demoralized, disappointed, or disillusioned by the process.  Often expressed was that the process seemed arbitrary or prejudicial, a matter of playing favorites.

One graduating senior wrote me a compelling and articulate letter, excerpted below, which I did not feel should be ignored.

Today’s awards ceremony was a huge letdown. I understand the goal is to highlight the students that succeed in our school, but instead it ended up making the rest of us feel inadequate and ignored.

The awards ceremony made me feel like my accomplishments are trivial. Essentially, today took the wind out of my sails.

Graduation is about the ENTIRE senior class and our accomplishments. I don’t want to attend a graduation where my friends and I go unnoticed once again.

Please make the rest of us feel like we matter too.

I make a habit of reading widely in the contemporary literature of motivation and the psychology of success; to my observation, there is very little reason to believe that awards are motivating for achievement.  Research has repeatedly demonstrated that intrinsic motivation is far more effective for life-long passion and purpose than is extrinsic motivation.   I highly recommend Dan Pink’s new book: Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, in which he very powerfully explains the evidence that external awards actually can reduce success in higher order thinking skills: offering someone the carrot of a reward to motivate them actually reduces his or her effectiveness and success in completing a higher order thinking, complex task.  (Conversely, for very low level, effectively mindless tasks, rewards or awards can motivate in a small way).

“An incentive designed to clarify thinking and sharpen creativity ended up clouding thinking and dulling creativity. Why? Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus.”

“Goals may cause systematic problems for organizations due to narrowed focus, unethical behavior, increased risk taking, decreased cooperation, and decreased intrinsic motivation. Use care when applying goals in your organization.”

By offering a reward, a principal signals to the agent that the task is undesirable. (If the task were desirable, the agent wouldn’t need a prod.)”

Stanford Psychology Professor Dr. Carol Dweck, in her terrific book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, explains how students can be potentially derailed from their growth mindset and into a problematic fixed mindset in school settings where some students are regularly rewarded and others are not.   The psychology of all this, not all of which is entirely conscious, is very powerful according to Dweck.  Some students may take away from their award exclusion that they are simply not capable of such achievement, and discontinue their efforts.  Other students, when winning awards, come to think this is the result of their innate, fixed abilities.   In this scenario, these award-winning students can become quite conservative in their learning, choosing not to take risks or try new things in areas in which they might not be successful, because in doing so they will jeopardize their self-identity as an award winner.

The most compelling reason to continue awards as they have been, I believe, is because we do know that many of our students have exerted themselves enormously, with great diligence and efforts, and they have accomplished extraordinary things.  Indeed.   Granting these students awards is a way of recognizing, acknowledging, and honoring these fine students.

However, these are often decisions difficult to make, and inevitably there is some ill-will generated in the process, ill-will which does not strengthen our school’s learning community.  Parents and students sometimes view the awards as having been decided in arbitrary ways, or by “favoritism.”  This concern was particularly prominent in the conversation I had with parents attending the November Family Association meeting.  That some deserving students are honored by awards misses the reality that other deserving students are hurt and by their perception their effort is devalued by not winning an award.

The good news is that in our new format, each and every student completing our programs, in the middle school and in the school as a whole, as 12th grade graduates, will have their hard work and extraordinary accomplishments acknowledged as is appropriate, in remarks which speak to the unique attributes of each.   Graduates will be spoken about, commended and congratulated twice: once in the “senior dinner” at which each graduate is paid tribute to by a pair of teachers, and then at graduation, as they are being awarded a diploma.

Some have asked about the importance of awards for our students’ college applications.   In the past, 70-80% of all awards have gone to graduating seniors, for whom these awards come too late to have any impact on a college application.  Furthermore, our very experienced and knowledgeable College Counselor, Malika Johnson, reports to us that internal school awards like this are not seen by most college admissions officers as significant in their decision-making process (awards granted to students from outside our school community do, in contrast, have significance in the process).

Motivated by the many disappointed and dissenting voices I heard last spring, I have conducted a review of our awards tradition over the past several months.   I enjoyed extended conversations with the upper school faculty (twice) and the middle school faculty (once); with the Family Association in an open meeting in advance of which we advertised we’d be discussing awards; and with a group of students who joined me for a conversation which I openly announced.

In all these conversations, there was very strong support for the changes we are making to the graduation ceremony.  At each discussion, many widely varying opinions were offered about awards, but in none of the conversations, by the end, did there continue to be very strong advocacy for continuing the status quo, and in both the faculty and the parent conversations, there was by the end instead a clear majority support for ending our awards process.

Two surveys were conducted.  One went to parents, announced two times in the e-View, it received very little participation—well under 5% of parents responded.   Of those that did, a majority expressed strong support for our awards tradition.   Our St. Gregory faculty members also completed a survey, for which we received nearly 100% participation; of the 35 members of our faculty in the survey, only 4 teachers, 11%, expressed a wish that we continue with the status quo tradition of past year (15% of those expressing a preference).   23% expressed no preference, and a clear majority of our faculty members, nearly two/thirds, expressed a preference to end the status quo (85% of those expressing a preference).

With such an overwhelming proportion of our faculty in support of a change; with the strong support for such a change I received from the family association conversation; with respect for the student views that while awards are valued by some it is also understood perhaps they do diminish the sense of student community; and after discussion with the executive committee of the Board of Trustees; I have decided we will no longer have awards at St. Gregory in the way we have in the past.

To clarify further, we will not host end-of-year awards assemblies in the middle and upper school, and we will not distribute in any venue a large number of departmental and general student awards.

We are not deciding at this juncture to never offer any awards.  In our faculty poll, the plurality selection (40%) (and the majority (54%)of those who expressed an opinion) was for the option “end the status quo but allow some flexibility for some award giving.”

Hence, we are reserving the option on an ad-hoc basis to grant selectively and in small numbers awards at all-school or division meetings, perhaps at graduation or promotion ceremonies, or perhaps at all-school academic pep rallies and learning celebrations.

We are also continuing our development of a program of special diplomas for students who commit to and complete a course of study and activity to develop certain skills.   These will not be awards decided by teachers and granted to only a few, but will be distinctions students attain by their choice to pursue and their success at accomplishing them.

Finally, we will also continue to encourage and support our students in seeking external awards, individually and as part of teams.  We recognize that there is great value in our students having opportunity to participate and compete in larger arenas, and although there are still potentially problematic issues of appropriate motivation entailed in such external awards programs, there are not at all the same issues of compromising the learning community that internal awards create.

Some in our community will be disappointed about this decision, certainly.  Awards are part of our tradition, and awards offer value to highlighting the things most important to a school program, academic accomplishment.  Those community members who disagree with this decision are welcome to give feedback or share their contrasting points of view: I value greatly a learning community marked by active, civil discourse and dissent.

For me, the paramount values for an educational program are that we seek to motivate students in the best, most well research-supported ways, and that we strive to create a genuinely strong  learning community where all feel valued and all feel eager to support one another in learning.  Awards, to the best of my understanding and perception, simply do not serve these values.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Martin

Tags: , , , , ,

New Page at Wejr Board – Rethinking Awards Ceremonies

Many people have been asking about information on the topic of awards ceremonies in school.  I did have a Diigo page going (on motivation) but I thought I would add a page on my blog that highlights the words of many writers on this important topic.

Please click here to go to my page on “Rethinking Awards Ceremonies“.

If you know of any other posts/articles on the topic, please let me know.

In addition, if you are a school that has moved away from the traditional awards ceremonies to one that recognizes ALL students, please let me know so I can include you in “Recognize ALL Students – The Movement”.

Tags: ,

Awards Day – A Poem

While reading and commenting on Amanda C. Dykes’ blog post, “And The Award Goes To…“, I came across this poem (shared by Rebecca as a

By frankjuarez http://bit.ly/jJi5DI

By frankjuarez http://bit.ly/jJi5DI

comment) and I felt I needed to share:

Awards Day – by Beth Moore

I went to my son’s school that day
It was a very special day
When worthy tributes would be paid
To honor students in 1st grade.
Music ushered children in
Faces wet with toothless grins
Flags were raised and banners hung
Pledges said and anthems sung.
I stood with other moms in back
He didn’t know I’d come, in fact
I didn’t want his hopes set high
In case his teacher passed him by.
Every mom felt just the same
All had come to hear one name
The child she hoped they’d recognize
And find deserving of a prize.
The list went on page after page
As beaming children walked the stage
Cameras flashed and parents cheered
Grandma smiled ear to ear.
My eyes were fastened to just one
The anxious posture of my son
Perched at the very edge of seat
Too young to have assumed defeat.
Certificates for everything
From grades they made to how they sing
For days missed, for how they drew,
Good citizens to name a few.
But it wasn’t likely on that day
They’d honor one who’d learned to play
And stay in class from eight to three
Who’d learned to write and learned to read.

We hadn’t hoped he’d be the best
We’d prayed he’d fit in with the rest
I knew no matter who they’d call
My boy had worked hardest of all.

An elbow nudged me in the side
A friend attempting to confide
A boy waving frantically,
“There’s my mom! Right there! You see?”
They never called his name that day
I drove straight home, sobbed all the way.
The boy? He had ceased to care.
He had a mom and she was there.

(poem written by Beth Moore, found in her Things Pondered book)

What happens to a child that, no matter how hard he/she tries, they never win an award? What if this was your child?

As we near awards ceremony days in schools, please take a moment to reflect if this is, in fact, a positive tradition in our schools.

Join The Movement to Recognize All Students.

Tags: , , ,

The Wejr Family Awards

The "Weejie Award" from '88 that hangs above my bed for inspiration.

The "Weejie Award" from '88 that hangs above my bed for inspiration.

As we approach May, and now that I have 2 daughters, it is time to continue a long standing Wejr Family tradition – the “Weejies” -  The Wejr Family Awards.

Growing up, I was an A student and a decent athlete so I always looked forward to the day when my parents invited my family over to watch me beat out my sister for the academic and athletic awards.  I really think this helped me to become successful in the “competitive real world” and losing these awards motivated my sister to try harder.  She was brilliant in areas such as care, friendship, and family but always needed a little boost in her quest for the important real world things like grades and trophies.  Although we were two years apart and developed at different rates, I believe that it was important for her to learn how to lose and see that there are people better than her and that she needed to work harder in areas that were important, not to her, but to my parents.

So now, my wife and I have decided to continue on this journey.  Our first Wejr Family Awards have been discussed.  We have one daughter that was born 3 lbs heavier than the other (they are twins).  She has developed a few weeks ahead so is going to clean up this year!  We are so proud and excited for her.  Our other daughter will be motivated by these awards (that have nothing to do with development, of course) and will try harder to maybe be the first to walk or even talk!  (I look forward to grading them in their journey to walk and ride a bike – its important that they know where they are at and what better way of showing them this than a letter grade?).  The key here is that by encouraging our children to strive for these awards, and defeat the other, they will achieve more and be pushed toward a more successful career in the real world.  I know that without these awards, given once a year at the end of the school year, my girls will struggle to see the value in learning and helping others.  That is why I am so excited to continue the tradition of… “The Weejies”.

Obviously we would NEVER do this to our kids… so the question is: WHY DO WE DO THIS IN SCHOOLS?

NOTE: I want to thank my parents for always encouraging and seeing the strengths and interests in their children.  My sister and I had completely different strengths and because of my parents, my sister continues to be my best friend and teach me so many things in areas in which she excels: compassion, care,and family.

A few more thoughts from me on awards:

Tags: , , ,